Timeline of Potential Types of Photographic Documentation



1839 - 1860

Daguerreotypes utilized a direct positive method or photographing. In other words, the image was created on the support and no negative was produced. This type of photograph utilized a copper sheet, plated with silver for its support. Due to the nature of the silver, the surfaces of daguerreotypes frequently appear mirror-like or tarnished. In addition, daguerreotypes were usually housed or framed in wood cases covered with cloth, leather or mother of pearl (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).


1840 - 1855

They used a negative and a paper support. These types of photographs are relatively rare, and usually were waxed or oiled (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Salted Paper Prints

1840 - 1860

They utilized a negative in the photographing process. These were among the first types of photographs to use an uncoated3 paper support. Salted paper prints are created by printing-out paper4, and consequently can be identified by its matte surface, and visible paper fibers. In addition, these types of photographs characteristically faded to a pale yellow, and especially around the edges. Occasionally these photographs were varnished (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Eastman American Films

1844 - 1890

Eastman American Films were created on a gelatin support using a photo negative. However, this type of photograph is rare. They can usually look like plastic, but they tend to be brittle. In addition, the edges of Eastman American film are generally uneven. Lastly, Kodak No. 1 (2-1/2” diameter) and Kodak No. 2 (3 - 1/2” diameter) used this film for their cameras (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Collodion wet plates

1851 - 1880

They utilized a photo negative and a glass plate support with a coating done by hand, which were usually uneven. Collodion wet plates were also usually varnished and had edges that were ground (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Albumen Prints

1851 - 1900

They utilized both a negative and the POP method on a coated5 paper support. They generally have semi-glossy surfaces, a crackle pattern in dark shadows, and visible paper fibers. In addition, albumen prints are usually housed in a heavy mount (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).


1851 - 1880

Like Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes utilized a direct positive method. Ambryotypes were created on glass supports and occasionally ruby glass. They can be identified by the milky gray highlights, and black backings. In addition, these types of photographs were usually housed in a case (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).


1854 - 1930

Tintypes derive their name from the support, which was typically a sheet of iron coated with a mixture of black varnish (“japanned surface”), raw linseed oil, asphaltum and pigments. They can be identified by the lack of image contrast, milky gray highlights, and possible rust formation. Tintypes also utilized the direct positive method of photography (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Eastman Paper Negatives

1855 - 1895

Like Calotypes they are relatively rare, used a paper support, and used a photo negative. In addition, this type of photograph is usually in a small format and in poor condition (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Carbon Prints

1860 - Present

They utilize a negative method of photography and a coated paper support. This method of photographing was largely used for documenting and reproducing works of art. Some identifiable characteristics include: visible paper fibers in the highlights, subtle relief in the image layer, and possible large cracks in the shadows and dark areas. In addition, carbon prints are resistant to fading and yellowing, and the can be made in any color (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).


1866 - 1900

Woodburytypes were largely used between 1866 - c. 1900. They are made from a negative, with a coated paper support, and possess the same characteristics as carbon prints. The major difference being that Woodburytypes are not photographic, but photomechanical in which the image is etched away from the surface instead of added. This type of photography was mostly used for book illustrations and large edition publications (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Collodion Prints

1880 - 1920

Collodion prints were made from a negative and on either a glossy, coated paper support (between the late 1880s - 1920s), or on a matte, coated paper support (between 1894 - 1920s). The coated paper support for Collodion prints also utilized the POP method and possessed a 3 layered structure, instead of the usual 2 layers. Some characteristics of note include: an overall sepia, or purple color, and a subtle rainbow effect on their surface of the glossy collodion print when viewed under fluorescent lights. A matte Collodion print on the other hand, can be characterized by an over all gold, platinum, or black color. In general, Collodion prints are very stable, and only in rare cases do they fade. However, the surfaces of these photographs are easily abraded, and consequently they are usually mounted. Due to the third layer in the structure of the photograph, the paper fibers are not usually visible (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Gelatin Dry Plates

1880 - 1975

Gelatin Dry Plates followed the photo negative process and used a glass support with a uniform coating performed by a machine. The edges of Gelatin dry plates are usually cut, and the surface is occasionally varnished (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Gelatin DOP Prints

1880 - Present

Gelatin DOP Prints (Silver Bromide) are created using a negative and a coated paper support, and with either a glossy, matte or textured surface (but not from the paper fibers as they are not visible). While Gelatin DOPs often appear black and white, they can be toned to various warm colors. This type of photograph may exhibit fading and/or silvering (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Gelatine POP Prints

1880 - 1910

Gelatine POP Prints (Silver Chloride) utilized a negative and a coated paper support. The POP method usually produces warmer in colors than a gelatin DOP6. In addition, they can be characterized by the very glossy surface and frequently yellowing-fading. Like with the Collodion prints, the paper fibers not normally visible (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).


1880 - Present

Cyanotypes were invented in 1842 but not used until 1880s. They reached the peak of their popularity c. 1880 - c. 1910, but they are still used today. This type of photography utilized the negative method and an uncoated paper for a support. Cyanotypes can be characterized by the brilliant blue image color, visible paper fibers, and a matter surface (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).


1880 - 1930

Platinotypes were created in the negative method. Like salted paper prints, they were created on an uncoated paper support. Several characteristic features include: a gray-black color, matte surface, and visible paper fibers (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Cellulose Nitrates

1913 - 1939

This type of photograph used a photo negative and a plastic support. Usually, “NITRATE” was marked on edge of the support. It is important to note that cellulose nitrates are very flammable. They can be identified by an acidic smell when the products degrade. In addition, if a small clipping is dropped in solution of trichloroethylene, and it sinks, it is a cellulose nitrate film. Lastly, as the film degrades it becomes yellow, brittle, and sticky (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).


1916 - 1930

Palladiotypes had a characteristic velvety texture, and were popular with art photographers as they produced very stable images that had little or no fading or silvering. The paper, on the other hand, often became acidic and discolored (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

Cellulose Acetates, Diacetates, Triacetates, etc.

1925 - Present

The support is made of plastic, and is usually labeled “SAFETY” on the edge. Unlike cellulose nitrate, this type of photograph is not very flammable and the clippings float in trichloroethylene. However, like cellulose nitrate, when the product degrades it smells of acetic acid (vinegar). Lastly, the base and the emulsion layer will form channels as the negative deteriorates (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).

35 mm slides

1934 - Present


1965 - Present

Polyester is a photo negative technique that came into use in 1965 and is still used today. The support is made from plastic, and can be characterized by the interference patterns (rainbow colors) that are viewed between polarized filters. The support may also labeled “SAFETY” on the edge (Northeast, “5.2 Types of Photographs.”).


1991 - Present

Digital photographs were invented in 1986, but were not popularly used until 1991. Today, they are still largely used. Digital photographs utilize photo negatives, and they can have a variety of supports, but are usually on paper substrates. In addition, these types of photographs have the unique capability of being stored digitally in a variety of file formats (“reCollections 1,” 134-138).